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ADA seeks exemption for dental offices from proposed EPA pharma rules

January 25, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Association is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to exempt dental offices from its proposed hazardous waste pharmaceuticals rules.

In September 2015, the EPA proposed two new hazardous waste rules intended to protect waterways by preventing the flushing of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals and also help reduce the burden on health care workers and pharmacists by creating a specific set of regulations for those businesses that generate hazardous waste.

The Association praised the EPA's concern for safe hazardous waste disposal, but in comments filed in December, urged the agency to reconsider including dentists in the rule since dental offices generate very little hazardous waste and even lower quantities of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. The Association also asked that EPA exempt dental amalgam from the definition of pharmaceuticals.

"In the ADA's view, the Proposed Management Standards For Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals rule fails to take into account the specific factual circumstances facing (and resource limitations applicable to) the dental community. As a result, the costs exceed the benefit and EPA seeks to impose requirements that exceed EPA's legal authority," the ADA wrote.

The ADA also pointed out that the EPA's proposed rule could be misconstrued by sewer authorities, states and the EPA regional offices as applying to the disposal of dental amalgam into sewer systems and requested the agency revise its wording so that there are no misinterpretations.

"The ADA believes that it is not EPA's intention to include dental amalgam within the definition of pharmaceuticals in the proposed rule," wrote the ADA. "Dental amalgam has not traditionally been considered a pharmaceutical. Neither the rule, the preamble nor other documents in the administrative record express an explicit intention to cover dental amalgam."

A ban on the discharge of dental amalgam into sewer systems is inconsistent with EPA's proposed dental amalgam separator pretreatment standard, which was proposed on October 2014 by EPA's Office of Water.

The Association concluded its comments by asking the EPA to work with the ADA to develop voluntary options or guidance for dentists regarding the disposal of pharmaceutical waste — both hazardous waste pharmaceuticals and nonhazardous waste pharmaceuticals generated by dental offices.